How Food Affects Your Mood

How Food Affects Your Mood: photo of a bakery display case

Dear Selfless Esteem,
I think what I eat affects how I feel. Can you tell me how food affects mood? With the holidays approaching, I anticipate more opportunities of eating sweets like Halloween candy, pumpkin pie, and Christmas cookies, and so I want to know more about what I’m getting into.
Mental Munchies

Dear Mental Munchies,

You’re right—food can affect how we feel. Although I’m not a nutritionist or neurologist, I think your question is an interesting one to research as well as answer from my own experience and perspective. ( ◑‿◑)ɔ┏🍟–🍔┑٩(^◡^ )

But before we dig in, I’d like to address chronic and/or severe mood problems. If anyone reading this is experiencing that, be sure to get a physical examination to rule out medical problems and find a competent therapist. (See “What Is Wise Counsel and Good Therapy?” and “Why You Need To Get a Therapist ASAP.”) If you think you have a problem with food, the therapist can refer you to support groups, such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA). As described on their website,, OA is a “community of people who support each other in order to recover from compulsive eating and food behaviors.” (You may also be interested in the post, “Help! My Teenager Won’t Eat.”)

How Sweets Affect Mood

From a spiritual perspective, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This includes evaluating whether our eating patterns please God. But let’s not do this from a place of shame because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” in some area of our lives (Romans 3:23).

In fact, looking back at my adolescence, I ate foods high in sugar daily. It didn’t occur to me that it was a problem because it was so normalized in my peer group. Medical News Today’s article, “Sugar and Mental Health: A Toxic Combination?” by Yella Hewings-Martin, PhD, describes how excessive sugar intake increases depression and impairs cognition. In my case, I remember experiencing abrupt fluctuations in my energy level. *

How chocolate affects mood. Photo of dark chocolate bars

Dark chocolate in moderation seems to be an exception. PsychCentral’s article, “Can Chocolate Boost Mood?” states that it may boost mood by increasing the neurotransmitters, tryptophan and serotonin. And according to the University Health News article, “The Health Benefits of Chocolate for Your Brain May Include Memory & Mood Improvement,” the phytochemicals in chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa may improve mood and cognitive functioning.

Even so, chocolate isn’t the best solution to feel better. Instead, see “Mending a Broken Heart: 8 Methods to Ease Your Pain,” “Want To Stop Feeling Depressed? Here’s How,” and “6 Effective Ways To Manage Stress.” Also, since you mentioned the upcoming holidays, you may want to read “Giving Thanks in Hard Times,” “The Ultimate Guide for Beating the Holiday Blues,” and “4 Simple Tips for Managing Holiday Stress.”

How Healthy Food Affects Mood

Eating nutritional food lifts our mood and decreases mood swings. The article, “Food for your mood: How what you eat affects your mental health,” by Aetna explains this thoroughly. For example, folate helps produce dopamine, which causes us to feel happy, alert and productive. (See “15 Healthy Foods That Are High in Folate (Folic Acid)” by Healthline.)

Uma Naidoo, MD, a nutritional psychiatrist, explains the relationship between food, gut health, and mood problems in her article, “Gut feelings: How food affects your mood.” Additionally, she suggests specific foods for a “healthier gut and improved mood.”

Lastly, Eric Berg, DC, has an interesting video about how food affects your mood, including information about vitamins, blood sugar, and hormones.

Of course, none of these studies and theories replace a consultation with your physician about what’s best for you. I advise you to get a physical examination and discuss these suggestions with your doctor before trying them.

Spiritual Food: The Best of All

Deuteronomy 8:3 says that true sustenance is more than “bread”—it’s God’s Word. Spending time in God’s presence nourishes our spirits. Imagine how people felt when they shared meals with Jesus while He was on Earth; they were being fed both physically and spiritually.

Furthermore, Jesus ate with people ranging in earthly status from the ruler of Pharisees (Luke 14:1) to shunned tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:27–32) because He loves everyone. To learn more about God’s unconditional love, see the posts, “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem” and “The Real Truth About God.”)

And today, Jesus wants to spend time with you because He loves you (Revelation 1:5). (See “How To Pray in 5 Simple Steps.”) Hear Him say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).🍽️

*For those of you wondering how I decreased my sugar intake: Did I have will power? Did I outgrow it? Neither. It was an unexpected outcome of donating blood on a regular basis when I became an adult. Because my body was routinely making blood, I stopped craving sugary foods that hinder the absorption of iron, which helps make red blood cells. (But before you run to the nearest blood donation center, consult your physician first. ╍●‿●╍)

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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